The adrenalin is in full flight after nearly decking-it on the final round-about into Harrogate. I regather my senses and jump on Morgan’s wheel as climb our way into town. There is 1km go, with a right / left / right combination before the final ascent up to Betty’s Tea Rooms and 200m into the finish.
It is surprising what the brain will remember during extreme stress. The final ascent felt like I was back on the teardrop crit course in Kew, racing with my coach Nick. On the course, I would practice laying off his wheel, gathering my strength, before ‘bang’ – I would launch past and sprint out of the saddle into the finish.
Back to the final ascent. I knew that I was at a disadvantage, being a C4 up against a C5 (I have more functional disability than a C5). But I decided to nevertheless give it a crack. So, I launched what I had practised in training – and I gained a gap of a few meters. The crowd was going wild into the finish. I have never, ever, had anything like it. People lined the street and were madly cheering and pumping on the corflutes to create an almighty roar. Using this electric atmosphere, I did my best impersonation of Caleb Ewan sprinting into the finish – low, aero, strong.
However, interject rom-com slow motion of Han running out of gas with 100m to go. Every. Last. Pedal. Stroke into the finish was horrendous and my legs felt like concrete (not carbon fibre). Crossing the line, it was a blur but I realised I had taken out first in my class for C4, and come second in the bunch of C5 and C4 women at the 2019 Yorkshire Para Cycling International. I was completely stoked and super happy to take part in a race that was a part of history – never before had an international para cycling event been included in the UCI Road World Champs.
Because of the step forward for inclusion, we had all the Yorkshire (pud) trimmings for this race. Trimmings like having a big board for sign on, announcing our names individually as we rode towards the start line. Media commentary pre-race. Motorbikes with a film crew for BBC. We had both live streaming and a highlights package on the race. And then there was the mammoth support from each town that we rode through on the point-to-point race, which started in Tadcaster and finished 57km later in Harrogate. Each town was bright and sparkly with rainbow flags, hand-knitted rainbow jerseys, and crowds that must have needed a lot of caffeine for all the cheering they were doing. Very, very special. And even more special given that the previous weekend at the Para World Champs in the Netherlands was a bag of mixed emotions.
The 2019 UCI Para Road World Champs was held in Emmen in the Netherlands. We had a 20.8km individual time trial and 66.6km road race. In both these races I executed some aspects well, and some aspects I completely bodged up.
Things that went well in my time trial included my pacing and using other riders as carrots to spur me in. I made sure I road in the tyre marks on the road when helpful. I made sure I rode the shortest lines possible. I remembered to tuck my head for most of it, and accelerate over small pinches.
Things that I bodged up included getting a bit lost on the time trial course and my skills around corners. I was still a bit hesitant after the crashes earlier in the year and haven’t fully regained my confidence.
Things that went well in the road race included working with Meg and Em – we worked solidly for five laps to try and catch Morelli from the USA. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there as Morelli was working with three C5’s, so Morelli managed to stay away. The three Aussies applied a bunch of different tactics to try and drop riders from China and France. We managed to drop France.
Things that I bodged up included a lack of appreciation for the skills required in the ‘technical’ section on the course and my poor positioning leading into this section on the first lap. My positioning leading into the final corner was not ideal, and I didn’t manage to channel my inner Caleb Ewan this time. Bugger.
One of my trip highlights was Stu Tripp’s race. Stu attacked early in the race – with 55km out of 66km to go… He then got a lead of 20 – 30 seconds that ping ponged for the next 6 laps. With the final lap and scant kilometers to go, Stu was being reeled in by the chase bunch. I was cheering madly on the side of the road – resplendent in Aussie colours. Staff members – Mikey, Eliza, and Wazza – where doing the same. With radio commentary from Louise, who was keeping time gaps, we were informed that Stu only had 7 seconds on the bunch with half a lap to go. Coming into the final corner, the bunch swelled around him and he came 5th across the line. Stu’s ride was epic – a demonstration of having a crack, courage, grit, excellent pacing, and giving everyone a heart attack who was watching him. You don’t necessarily need to win to be a winner.
Off my bike, it was a magical team. The Aussies got first place on the medal tally – a first for us. We also have a great team culture, and brilliant staff who support us to race at our best. I also enjoyed staying in the nature park, where I was able to start each day with some meditation and wake up with no alarm! Pefecto. Also walked my well-being talk by not touching technology until afer brekkie. I was also able to soak up the goodness from mother nature and enjoy the animal farm, trees, and stunning sunsets. It was good to restore after roller coaster lead-in to the world champs (see Part 1 for more details). It also made me realise that I need to practice what I preach a bit more, and do less. I am human. We all are. Let’s respect this a little bit more each and every day.
Also walking my talk a bit more, and reaching out for help. If for whatever reason after reading Parts 1 and 2 of ‘The Highs and Lows of Elite Sport” and feel you could assist me with sponsorship as I head towards qualifying for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in January 2020, please drop me a line at email@example.com
Until next time,
Ride with a Smile, Ride with a Purpose, Ride in the Moment,